Saturday, January 14, 2012

Finally, We Made it to Khajuraho

A chilly, foggy morning
So the two day ride to Khajuraho became a three day ordeal due to both the road conditions and the fact that the GPS maps seem to be missing some points, which added about a hundred and fifty miles to the overall distance between Hyderabad and Khajuraho.

Day three started in an unpleasant rush since the alarm didn't go off. Colin did set it and I confirmed it. Fortunately I woke up for some unknown reason and thought it seemed awfully light outside for it to be so early, so I checked the clock and saw it was 6:30 am. The alarm was set for 5:30. Crap! That is never a good way to start the day. But we managed to get on the road by 7:30, which was only a half hour later than we wanted. The road leaving Jabalpur was extra horrible for the first several miles with potholes at least a foot deep covering the surface. As we got out into the countryside, the road improved somewhat with was a strip of smooth pavement right down the middle for us to use. 

After riding through some beautiful farmland, we found ourselves at the foot of a hilly area, where the road once again, became smooth, and 5 mph was doable. The downside was that it had begun to mist and get foggy. The temperature today wasn't warm to begin with, and the mist and fog made it downright chilly. After several miles, we made it to the top of the hill, where the road turned to shit again. Due to the precipitation, the up to 1 foot deep fissures that ran across the road were now also muddy. From then on it took us several hours of slipping and sliding in the mud and dodging and weaving as many of the bomb holes as we could. The damp was soaking through our gloves, and cold air was sneaking past our jackets. Eventually, both Re and I began to shiver. While I stopped to fill up my jerrycan with petrol, Re unpacked one of the Ortliebs to find our fleece pullovers. With our fleeces on, we felt better, but it was still a damn cold ride.

The crowd assembles
The roads got even worse, again with huge foot-deep craters now filled with water and mud covered roads. At one point I tried to stop and take a picture (because you really can't believe it unless you see it) but I couldn't find a safe place to stop. The holes were too deep and wide to safely balance and keep the feet somewhat dry, so I kept going. Just a short while later, Colin pulled over because his steering had gone wonky. He had a flat front tire. We rode up a small hill into somebody's dry-ish yard and got busy. As soon as we stopped and got off the bikes, the crowd assembled. First it was the usual group of men supervising our work, but then a group of little girls appeared. Then some more. We eventually had about twenty-five people of all ages watching us work. I think it's funny that probably at least a million tires go flat and are changed on the roadsides of India every day, and never is there a crowd. We are most definitely a novelty, but especially in small villages like this one where we stopped. 

Members of the supervisory committee
The line of little girls stood in the front of the group, staring at us and whispering. Colin looked at the girls, then at me, and whispered, “I sure hear a lot of whispering,” and looked back at the girls to see them now giggling. They just stared at us and whispered to each other (they didn't need to-it's not like we would have understood what they were saying even at a regular speaking volume). Once we had the wheel off and the tube out, we found the problem- the valve stem had torn away from the tube, and this was the new tube we had just installed in Ooty. We replaced it with one of our good, used tubes and reinstalled the wheel. After we finished, we answered people's questions about the bikes and our gear as best we could through pantomiming. People are fascinated by our helmets and our tire pump. If people wear helmets, and the vast majority do not, they are small and seem to be more cosmetic than protective. Most of them don't even have face shields, so when they see our built-in, flip down sun visors, they get almost giddy. And when they see our tire pump, which is maybe a foot long, made of lightweight polished aluminum, and can quickly and easily inflate a tire in no time, they want to buy it. The tire pumps in use here are bulky and inefficient and require a lot of jumping up and down to make them work, so I can understand why. As we geared up to go, the little girls lined up and walked up to me. One by one, they smiled, shook my hand, and wished me a happy New Year.

We got back on the road and finally made it to Khajuraho as the sun set. We found a hotel at the edge of the “temple zone,” offloaded the bikes, and went out to find some dinner. Since it was our first meal of the day, we were both looking forward to something really, really good. We went to the “Our Pick” from the Lonely Planet and were sorely disappointed with our meals. Oh well. On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped and picked up some cookies for dessert, headed back to the room and crashed for the night.

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